Previews: Gone Girl is a movie with a lot of hype lately. I knew it was based on a book written awhile back that I never read about a missing girl and it stars a pre Batman Ben Affleck. Also, it’s directed by David Fincher, so good or bad, the movie would have it’s share of creepiness.
Feature: The movie begins jarringly with Ben Affleck’s character Nick Dunne (nice last name) talking about cracking open his pretty wife’s head so he can scoop out her brains to see what she is thinking. In films you never get a second chance for your characters to give a first impression and Nick’s inner thoughts unnerve right away. What follows are some very welcome speedy credits that appear and disappear on screen like ghosts. Nick leaves his picturesque Midwestern house early in the morning for a morning drink at the local dive. He happens to own it with his a little too close twin sister/bartender Margo. There they play subtlety mundane game of Life on his 5 year anniversary when he is called back home to bring in the cat. This is the inciting incident where upon arriving home Nick finds the house empty and in immaculate shape except for a broken glass table. Oh yeah, and missing one wife. Strangely though, Nick takes her disappearance in stride and chooses to call not her, but the police first instead.
Since his wife is clearly gone from the get go we only initially see Amy, distantly played by Rosamund Pike, through flashbacks written in her journal. Through Amy’s journals we learn their marriage is not all that it seems and that Amy, and later on their marriage, has ample baggage. Amy is a highly educated trust fund baby and semi has been celebrity as her parents have written a whole series children’s books about her overly embellished life. However, “Amazing Amy is resentful of her parents profiting off her disappointing childhood while her literary alter ego gets the perfectly written happy ending. Until one boring house party later where she meets too cool for school Nick and the fireworks begin. It’s an effective way to layer in the troubled couple’s back story while providing us a way to peek inside Amy’s head to see what really goes on inside her brain. On top of that she is a writer like her parents so her choice of words in the diary are poetic and insightful. Sometimes too much,
Armed with her ever present cup of joe and a pack of sticky notes, the local detective arrives at Nick’s crime scene house looking for clues from the clueless Nick. Luckily, a missing person’s case is just what the police department needs to break up the small town monotony and Amy’s case is put on the fast track for investigation. And fast it is. Usually it takes 24 hours to file a missing person’s case but within 24 hours Nick is already holding a press conference, and the town has organized a search to find Amazing Amy. Through it all Nick seems dis-attached and unmoved by Amy’s disappearance which makes us want to crack open his skull and see what’s going on inside..
Thankfully Amy’s diary helps us see what Nick is unwilling to share, and her entries reveal a short honeymoon period for the newlywed couple as the 2008 recession hits Nick and Amy hard. Nick has lost his job at a men’s magazine and instead of finding work is content to spend his days gunning people down in Call of Duty. He convinces Amy to move to his hometown in Missouri to look after hos dying mother. Amy loves Nick’s mom and agrees but quickly resents small town life having grown up in New York. Nick however, hasn’t grown much beyond the college party scene and Amy views her husband as a leech sucking her life away and her money dry. To make matters worse Amy’s job is tenuous and to ratchet up the financial pressure her parents need to raid her million dollar trust fund to get by. Nobody cares about Amazing Amy anymore it seems, even Nick, as he uses Amy for sex then runs off for guy’s nights out. The cherry on top is an abusive fight with Nick after a baby saving marriage talk ends up with her in the stairs. This is a side of Nick she hasn’t seen before and she is terrified. She is afraid her husband will kill her, and so are we.
During the investigation evidence against Nick grows as it appears Amy has left a trail of seductive anniversary treasure hunt style clues about her disappearance. A mountain of mysterious credit card bills show up along with a multi-million dollar life insurance policy against Amy with Nick’s signature. And everything, the house, the car, Nick’s bar, appears to be in Amy’s name. Nick feels the investigation turn against him as he claims he never made the mysterious purchases and it was Amy’s idea to have him take out the insurance policy long ago. To make matters worse Nick is visited late one night by a young college hottie who he has been having an affair with. Oh, and it turns out Amy was pregnant at the time of her disappearance, bewildering Nick as it turns out neither of them really wanted a child. At this point, almost half way through the movie, all the evidence clearly paints Nick as just another Scott Peterson. It’s almost too perfect when Amy’s half burnt diary falls in the hands of the police damning Nick in his lost wife’s own words. But with no body or weapon there can be no arrest, so the mountain of evidence builds and builds to the point where there seems to be no question Nick is guilty of the heinous murder of his wife.
However at this point the film throws one of it’s first major curve balls. In a move straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo, the film is flipped on it’s head when they mystery of Amy’s disappearance is solved halfway through the movie. We see Amy is indeed gone, but very much alive and loving her new life as a missing person. Her disappearance is no mystery but a carefully calculated plan but into motion months if not years ago to frame her husband. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Amy must have a summer trust funded residence down below for the levels of depravity, and glee, she shows in setting up her aloof husband. Fueled by a need for revenge on her cheating husband and well informed on how to cover up a crime by watching hours of murder porn on Discovery ID, she made the credit card purchases, took out the life insurance policy, and faked the pregnancy all to make Nick look guilty and provide him with plenty of motive. She’s even not afraid to draw a bucket of her own blood to splatter behind as evidence. But not before she cleans it up in craptastic fashion, as her lazy husband would do. Even her deepest thoughts, locked away in the diary, have been a set up, purposely left behind and made up as evidence to frame poor Nick. Like her parents when she was younger, Amy learned how to turn fiction into non-fiction convincingly. So complete is her plan she has even mapped out her revenge on a calendar, complete with a day picked out to kill herself in a place where her body can be found. All to send Nick to the chair. They have the death penalty in Missouri after all.
Gone Girl is like a two and a half hour episode of Law and Order. The beginning is all about the crime investigation while the back end focuses on the pursuing legal battle. With Nick, and now us, knowing he is truly innocent he hires a hot shot $100,000 retainer lawyer played by scene stealing Tyler Perry, who helps to plan his legal and public defense with the help of his loyal sister. It turns out Amy has done this before by setting up an ex with charges of rape years before meeting Nick and now his only hope for redemption is to track her down to prove his innocence.
While Nick wages a PR campaign to clear his name, Amy goes from trailer park hiding to shacking up with her former millionaire college lover, the infatuated Doogie Houser. The Doog is all too happy to have won her back and sets Amy up in his cabin penthouse/fortress/prison complete with heated bathroom floors and a web of security cameras that would make Fort Knox jealous. Confident he’ll rekindle his romance with the one who got away the Doog leaves Amy to gather her thoughts after being hooked by her story of abuse at Nick’s hands. He promises her, there is no way he’ll ever let her out of his grasp ever again, trapping Amy again in a subservient relationship she wants no part of.
However, a desperate, impassioned, and nationally televised plea from Nick for Amy’s return leads to the second major curve ball the movie has to throw. Amy watches it, and sees in Nick the ambitious go getter she once knew and misses again. Unfortunately she has the world and her captor convinced she was the victim of a horrible crime and just can’t show up at Nick’s door step. Or can she? To plot her latest escape Amy uses the cabin’s ever present security cameras in place of her diary to set up Doogie for rape, and one of the most blood soaked throat slashes in movie history. In a movie so much about violence unseen it’s quite shocking when it happens. Before the Doog has finished bleeding out Amy is back home, soaked in blood and crying about escape from her torturous ex boyfriend’s clutches.
Knowing better, Nick doesn’t buy her story for a second but the public eats it up. The police buy her story and she is free to return home with her husband, There, still covered in blood she confesses everything to him in the shower as she washes it and her lies away. And poor Nick, caught between an utterly psycho wife and a suddenly lucrative, as if written for TV, story chooses to stay with her. Amy makes a convincing argument for her love in the fact that she really has killed for him. Or is it that she may really be pregnant again? Or maybe, just maybe, Nick wants her still. That beneath all their squabbles with alleged kidnappings, abuse, and that whole death penalty thing, Nick may be codependent when all is said and done and can’t live with his unpredictable wife as much as he can without her.
Roll Credits: Gone Girl goes a long way in setting back the gains made in male and female relations over the past few centuries. The film validates every husband’s concern that their wife is just as secretly unhinged and treacherous as they’ve always believed her to be. And every woman’s fear that their dopey and childish husbands are just a 20 year old away from having an affair. And the best way to deal with those long held issues isn’t through therapy or sacrifice, but a long planned revenge. David Fincher does a good job of making the whole film feel awkward and unnerving. For two and a half hours run time the film doesn’t drag but leaves you wanting a final resolution that never seems to come, until the end when it does abruptly. Because of that it’s hard not to leave Gone Girl without feeling uncomfortable. After all, as Amy tells Nick towards the end, this is how marriages are supposed to work. It’s a spouses job to make the other miserable.